Tag Archives: C.J. Mahaney

I’m Just Jealous of Your Success in The Lord

Call it a Throwback Thursday moment, because I still love this:

I’m jealous of C.J. Mahaney’s ability to cover up ugly things.

I’m jealous of Tim Keller’s reasoning skills.

I’m jealous of John Piper’s articulation of positions that implode even as he states them.

I’m jealous of Bill Gothard’s way with the ladies.

I’m jealous of Bob Jones University’s keen identification of the sources of problems.

I’m jealous of Mark Driscoll’s ambition.

I’m just jealous of your success in the Lord.

I think, however, I’ve learned from these men how to be successful in the Lord.

Be forceful, be confident, be uncompromising, be direct, be confrontational.

Be rhetorically slippery; be illogical.

Be anything that makes someone successful in today’s world of marketing and media, for the world of marketing and media is the Kingdom of Heaven.

And I’ve learned you can have a great social club by gathering around the teachings of famous contemporaries.

Just save the discernment for later, when the facts are so obvious no discernment is necessary, which is how discernment seems to work in American churches, especially the most conservative ones, which start by dispatching all knowledge gained by human inquiry because it might get in the way of discernment. (It makes sense because it doesn’t make sense.)

One thing you should do in response to this post: Accuse me of “sour grapes,” because, as Andy Crouch has taught us, diverting attention from facts to abstractions is an easy way to sound spiritually wise.

A quick question for pastors and ministers

Reflecting on the past few years, I’m stunned at the lack of basic character in your profession.

If you scream from your pulpits about the sins of the world and unorthodox beliefs in other churches, when will you scream from your pulpits about the sins of Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, Bill Gothard, Bob Jones University, Anglicans in the U.S. supporting the jailing of gays in Africa, the startlingly non-biblical beliefs (before their son’s troubles) of the Duggars, Doug Phillips, and the Roman Catholic pedophile priests?

I know, you can’t because you’ve been too busy picking on Rob Bell about universalism — you know, universalism, an idea, a belief, a way of thinking that does not bully or degrade or sexually assault anyone.

You’re too busy critiquing liberal theology in the mainline Protestant denominations — much easier, granted, than addressing the real problems in your own conservative houses.

Or it’s simpler than that. You’ve been friends with the conservatives. You’ve been enemies of the liberals. Defend your friends and kick your enemies. Like Jesus said, you’re just like everyone else. You’re like this guy.

You frauds.

Your Bible says, “Moreover, [the Christian leader] must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

That’s I Timothy 3:7.

You’ve failed that standard.

You are not well thought of by outsiders or insiders.

You are a disgrace.

‘We’re not the worst thing we’ve ever done in our lives’ — and yet sometimes distancing oneself is ethical

Today I un-friend-ed my Facebook connection Kirk Nesset, an English professor at Allegheny College and a well-known figure among academic writing programs.

Nesset is facing federal child pornography charges, which I learned about after Sandra Beasley, an award-winning poet, blogged her dismay with Nesset’s admitted behavior.

Beasley says:

As I write this, [Nesset and I] share 710 “friends” on Facebook, which essentially represents our overlap in the writing community. Many of those writers are parents who unhesitatingly post snapshots of their kids in various stages of dress. They deserve to know, and so I will link to this on Facebook.

She admirably has taken responsibility for her possible role in exposing anyone to risk. Compare that to the apparent irresponsibility of Sovereign Grace Ministries founder C.J. Mahaney and his own brother-in-law when another man’s sexual abuse of children was revealed.

Beasley goes on to write:

There’s been anxiety and anger in our community as of late because of transgressions–some alleged, some confirmed–of one writer against another, with accusations that a cloak of protective silence has come down around the perpetrator due to his or her popularity and/or influence. I’ve stayed out of it. That choice, I realize with some embarrassment, is a luxury of not knowing any of the parties involved. I have no such luxury here. I have implicitly endorsed Kirk by making friendly introductions over the years; I have offered explicit endorsements by sending students his way.

What an outstanding confession. I mean, of course Beasley had nothing to do with Nesset’s extremely harmful behavior. Yet she realizes that even unwittingly placing someone in harm’s way obligates her to speak out.

Compare Beasley’s approach to that of Pastor Mark Driscoll, the self-anointed moral authority who has verbally and emotionally abused people, in a sense becoming harm himself.

I noticed in comments on Warren Throckmorton’s blog people who were saying, in various forms, forgiveness is one thing, but trust and respect are other matters. Similarly, Beasley quotes former Sen. Bob Kerry, who recently told a reporter, “We’re not the worst thing we’ve ever done in our lives, and there’s a tendency to think we are.”

That, to me, is not the biggest issue when numerous other lives are damaged by an influential person. To me, the biggest issue is, as Beasley says, “a cloak of protective silence has come down around the perpetrator due to his or her popularity and/or influence.” She’s making a broad comment here, not referring specifically to Nesset, but she is explaining a tendency within social groups and professional groups to give leaders and high-profile banner-carriers special privilege.

With that in mind, I think this is one of Beasley’s most important points:

The eccentric good-ness of this writing community has seen me through many a dark night.

We owe it to each other to shepherd that goodness, and that means recognizing when something has gone very wrong.

Justifiable skepticism: What did C.J. Mahaney really know, and when did he really know it?

As the Associated Baptist Press reported last week,

A former youth worker convicted of sexually abusing boys in the 1980s at a Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Maryland was sentenced Aug. 14 to 40 years in prison.

Nathaniel Morales, 56, was found guilty in May of abusing three boys from 1983 to 1991 while working in youth ministries and leading Bible studies at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md.

The article ended with this note, which refers to Sovereign Grace Ministries founder C.J. Mahaney:

Leaders of Covenant Life initially said they had no knowledge of any abuse until many years after it occurred when an adult who had been victimized as a child came forward. During the Morales trial, however, Grant Layman, Mahaney’s brother-in-law and a former pastor at the church, testified that he knew of allegations against Morales 20 years ago but did not call police. [emphasis added]

That highlighted segment is exactly what casts suspicion on C.J. Mahaney. As Billy Graham’s grandson Tullian Tchividjian said back in May,

“Give me a break. These people, they’re family. Of course he knew,” Tchividjian told The Christian Post. “C. J. was, for many years, the micro-managing head of the organization and nothing happened under the umbrella of Sovereign Grace that he wasn’t made aware of, so for anyone to say, ‘Well he didn’t know,’ that’s totally naive.”

A separate civil lawsuit against Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Inc. (SGM), and affiliated ministers and churches, was filed last year.

The civil lawsuit named Mahaney and nine others individuals as defendants. (Morales was not named as a defendant in the civil suit.)

The primary accusation against Mahaney and the defendants is that they covered up sexual abuse and failed to alert police.

However, additional ministers are part of the plaintiffs’ stories of sexual abuse as detailed in the lawsuit.

Unfortunately, as the Washington Post reported back in June,

The claims [in the civil suit] have been dismissed largely because of statute of limitations reasons, but the lawyers have appealed and want to bring the claims back into play.

The details of the suit are graphic and disturbing. I could only read the first 18 pages of the 46-page suit before I had to stop. The particulars are disturbing and degrading.

The alleged perpetrators were involved in ministry. It’s the stuff of horror movies: How could such demonic animals touch a Bible or tolerate worship music?

I guess a crucifix is no match for a vampire.Lord_Vampire

Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) and its affiliates have been accused of more than sexual abuse, but accusations of spiritual abuse are less likely to wind up in court or receive coverage in the mainstream media.

But the chronicles of spiritual abuse have been documented and discussed on the website SGMSurvivors.com, which has archives going back to November 2007.

The founders of the website say they did not have an especially bad experience in their SGM-affiliated church, but they began to realize “SGM saw itself as set apart from the rest of the Christian world.”

SGM has been called a “cult” in at least two reports by WJLA, an ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. (see here and here).

Update, Oct. 12, 2016:

In a Feb. 14, 2016, article, SGM is called a “cult” yet again:

“Covenant Life Church had a reputation of being really isolating,” says Tope Fadiran, a writer in the Boston area who attended as a teen. “Other conservative evangelicals thought it was a cult because of how intensely people in the church had their entire lives consumed.”

Another piece of the same article supports what Tullian Tchividjian said above:

Former church official Brent Detwiler, however, believes Mahaney knew more than he’ll ever let on. “Nobody worked longer or closer with C.J. in all the history of Sovereign Grace Ministries than I did,” Detwiler says. He believes it’s impossible for all these pastors to have known about abuse and not to have told Mahaney how they were handling it. “It just didn’t work that way.”

SGM-let_the_right_one_in02

A frame from the horror film ‘Let The Right One In.’

The reality of pastoral gossip, or, Pastor Mark Driscoll trains you in godly leadership

One of the great things about Christian leaders is their example.

You can learn from their examples. You can follow them as they follow Christ.

As Ron Wheeler notes in this open letter to Mark Driscoll, one trait of a godly leader is the ability to hold private disdain for those with whom you work in ministry.

Wheeler writes,

But then I listened as you slandered and maligned the men and women we worked with behind their backs -who though we didn’t agree with some of them theologically- were wonderful people, and never deserved to be spoken of, or treated the way you did. People who I know would have considered you a friend and have no idea how you really felt about them. I have personally tried to go back and apologize to people who were “kicked to the curb”, along the way, and yes, I do feel I was complicit to your actions; guilty by way of association and being silent.

For that, I could not be more sorry. [emphasis added]

Clearly, Ron Wheeler is bitter because he is not able to experience the freedom and grace to slander and malign others.

(I admit I have failed to understand freedom and grace so my faith is shaky. I realized if you tell me about someone else, you’ll probably tell someone else about me. Christianity is, more often than not, the last place for sharing personal matters. Just go to secular psychologists for confession — they have solid ethics.)

Another thing Wheeler failed to learn from Pastor Driscoll’s godliness is the wisdom of Machiavellian political maneuvering.

Again, Wheeler writes,

Then you involved yourself in our Eldership in a most irresponsible and reckless manner. In hindsight, it never should have gotten to that point, and I accept full responsibility for that, but what I needed was trustworthy, Biblical accountability, and instead I got slander, threats, and verbal abuse. We had good elders who were caught between a pastor dealing with personal and familial sin, and an outside accountability that was reckless, irresponsible and ultimately had a destructive influence on a once unified eldership. I know it all now. I’ve read the communication you had with the other elders behind my back. Ugly, slanderous, defaming lies, Mark. I thought you were my brother and you treated me like scum.

On March 17, 2005, I sent a letter of grievance to the Board of Acts29, asking them to address what I had come to realize over time, were serious character flaws of yours. I made the case that Biblically you were unfit and disqualified as an Elder. A case based off long established patterns of pride, lack of self-control, sexually vulgar and slanderous speech, exaggeration that bordered on deception, gossip about others and confidentiality issues. An excerpt from that letter stated: “The fact that Mark is an incredibly talented leader and charismatic personality, cannot in any way substitute for the simple Biblical requirements of being Christ-like, much less the qualifications of being an Elder. I can make a Biblical case from Titus regarding his being overbearing, quick-tempered, self-controlled, upright, and holy, as well as 1 Timothy regarding being above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, not quarrelsome, and a good reputation with outsiders”.

Not surprisingly, we got a response letter from the Board of Acts29 informing us that they would accept our resignation from Acts29, as we had made our continued participation in the network contingent upon their dealing with your issues. Apparently, they lacked the fortitude and resolve to deal with your out-of-control behavior, and so became complicit themselves. How the board of Acts29 abdicated their responsibility in this, is beyond my comprehension. In addition, I was heartbroken as there were so many guys in the network that I loved. Guys that I came to miss dearly over the next few painful, depressing years. You asked me not to contact any of the guys and be “divisive”. I never did, you know. When I finally did just recently, I discovered that you had completely misrepresented what happened in my situation. Thus, what I had seen you do to others, finally came full circle around to me. It sucked. I didn’t like it at all. [emphasis added]

Before I get to the Mark Driscoll Leadership Tips we can draw from this passage, I just want to thank the Lord for the way the Holy Spirit has led Pastor Driscoll and the members of Acts29 in Christ-like behavior, wisdom, and discernment. I’m grateful that the evangelical flock can look up to these men of character, integrity, and timely insight. I’m glad all those prayers for Driscoll and Acts29 were fruitful. We’re blessed because all that time in The Word bore fruit.

Now, the tips we can learn from Driscoll’s godly leadership.

One, if you feel like you’re called by God, tell any lie you feel necessary to protect the manifestation of that calling. Can I get an Amen? The manifestation of your calling is yours at any cost — because Jesus paid ALL costs. That is grace and freedom, bro — the will to power must also be the will to maintain power.

Two, when in a pinch, work your network. That’s why you go to conferences with members of the Evangelical All-Stars on the speaker lists. You’ve gotta have friends and connections. Look, say what you want about the Roman Catholics, but they’ve got this down-pat. How else do pedophile priests face accusations only to get new jobs in other parishes? They’ve got a killer network, man.

But as a Protestant, you accept no earthly authority — remember that. Say to yourself, “I accept no earthly authority.” It’s far more meaningful than that silly “Jesus prayer” repeated endlessly by Eastern Orthodox monks. You accept no earthly authority. When you face accusations, you just cash in your networking chips.

This method worked wonders for C.J. Mahaney, who got his famous pals to ignore concrete evidence and declare him righteous. They might as well have said, “He’s so well-networked with us, we can’t imagine him doing anything wrong.”

Books that can help you become a godly leader like Mark Driscoll

the-prince
Because “it is better to be feared than loved.”
Pastor Mark Driscoll certainly has been feared.
 
The-Art-of-War
“Appear weak when you are strong, strong when you are weak.”
That could be Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Ministry Motto. It’s also could be the recipe for both false humility and bullying.

UPDATE: PLEASE ALSO SEE “POSTSCRIPT TO ‘THE REALITY OF PASTORAL GOSSIP’ — A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE